Monday, July 28, 2014

Can You Recommend a Producer?

Perhaps the question I am asked most often is "Can you recommend a producer for my project?" In light of this, I've decided to share this list of 100+ independent film producers I've compiled over the years. It comes in handy whenever I'm looking for a producing partner on a project, or more recently, for a trustworthy producer to lead the charge and take care of the money on films that Gamechanger may want to finance. Note that this is not meant to be a "best" list (in fact, I don't know some of the producers on the list); it is merely an objective compilation of all of the producers who have been Independent Spirit Producers Award nominees, Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellows, and Rotterdam Lab fellows from the U.S. (so you should do your homework on each of them).

But these are just three sources! There are many other good and great producers who aren't on this list, including some very established indie producer institutions like Christine Vachon, Ted Hope, Anthony Bregman, Ron Yerxa & Albert Berger, Anne Carey, etc. (you should look at Oscar nominees for those!). Other sources you can research include: Film Independent Producing Lab; Berlin Talent Campus; PGA Diversity Workshop; Gotham & Spirit Award nominees; recent film festival program guides; recent project market guides; graduate producing students at film schools like USC, Columbia, NYU, AFI, and UCLA; personal recommendations from fellow writers and directors; and good ol' IMDbstart by looking at who produced recent films you've liked.

Before approaching producers, remember to do your research on them! If your project is microbudget, you should probably skip the folks who haven't produced a microbudget film in the last five years. If the producer has recently gotten a new full-time job as a studio executive, an agent, or the like, she's probably not looking for new projects to produce right now. (Ditto producers who have left the biz...many of us do!) If you're looking for a producer to help you develop your script, attach cast, and find financing, make sure he actually has that experience, or at least the smarts and hunger to learn all that stuff on the job. Also, don't pigeonhole a producerjust because she's never produced a horror film before doesn't mean that she can't or doesn't want to. And remember that not all "producers" are created equal - some are not actually creative/holistic producers, but rather financiers, managers, sales agents, line producers, or writers. Make sure you figure out what kind of "producer" they are.

Finally, don't unnecessarily weigh down your project with multiple producers from the outset. Like directing, producing is an art, and too many cooks do spoil the broth. Don't attach producer deadweight, because it's hard to unattach. Get your lead producer on board first, then decide together whether it's worth attaching additional producers.

Finding the right producer can be as tough as finding the right spouse. Best of luck to ya!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Grandparents Didn't Make History, But They Made Me

It's been almost a year since my Grandma Louie died. She was my favorite grandparent, and the last of all of them to go. Since they're all gone now, I'd been wanting to write some things down about their lives before I forgot them. They don't have Wikipedia entries or defunct Facebook accounts, and they don't come up in any Google searches. The only signs of themselves that they've left are embedded in their descendants' memories. So I wanted to encode my memories of them in text before they disappeared, and what better time to do it than the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month?


My paternal grandparents were from Taishan, and had an arranged marriage, as was tradition in rural southern China at the time. My grandma's education ended after the second grade, but my grandpa went to college and law school, practiced law, and eventually became a judge. They were married as teenagers, and the wide educational gap between them, not to mention the arranged marriage, was an issue from time to time. In her 60s, my grandma would often joke about divorcing my grandpa.

Grandparents Louie & me on a trip to San Francisco
Seeking a better life, they immigrated to Hong Kong in the early 1950s with 3 small kids, including my dad. They lived in Sham Shui Po, and my grandpa worked as a teacher. While in Hong Kong, my grandparents had 2 more kids. There would've been 2 others had one not died in childbirth and another as an infant. In 1967, shortly after U.S. immigration restrictions were relaxed, my grandparents immigrated with all 5 of their children to New York City.

Much of my grandpa's family, including his own father, had immigrated to Toronto a generation before. The first of these settlers opened a laundromat and planted roots in Canada, but my great-grandfather eventually went back to Asia and retired in Hong Kong.

My grandparents came to New York because my grandma's siblings (including a brother-in-law who fought as an American soldier in World War II) had immigrated to Brooklyn and Queens many years prior. My great aunts and uncles lived in Rockaway (one of them ran a laundromat there!), Bay Ridge, and Marine Park, and my grandparents settled in Kensington, Brooklyn, where I spent most of my own childhood and adolescence.

My grandparents joined the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association, a community organization based on family surnames that was founded in 1846 in China, and first established in the U.S. in 1880 in San Francisco. My grandpa would eventually become the longest-serving president of the New York chapter. The language barrier made his legal and teaching experience moot, so through his new friends at Soo Yuen, he got a job selling tickets at a movie theater in Chinatown that played a mix of regular and pornographic Chinese films--I'm still trying to confirm which theater, but I'm pretty sure it was this one, which the Chinese knew as Hua Du (华都) Cinema. My parents would leave me and my sisters there for grandpa to babysit us while they shopped for groceries. I snuck a peek at the screen sometimes, and my grandpa caught me once and yelled at me, but even as a kid, I knew that his anger came from shame. Most of the time, my sisters and I just stayed in the lobby eating popcorn and candy, trying to dodge the rats that scurried about. Grandpa would wear a 3-piece tweed suit and a driving cap to work. He smoked Marlboros and drank Johnny Walker Red (in moderation), and lived till his mid-80s.

Grandma Louie & me
My grandma worked as a seamstress in a sweatshop on East Broadway. She was a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU). During the summers when I was little, she'd bring me with her to help cut threads. I remember there were very short lunch and bathroom breaks, and a lot of yelling from the bosses. This was probably where I learned my first lessons about hardship and injustice.

I think part of why Grandma Louie was my favorite was because I was her favorite, but for a completely unfair and patriarchal reason: I was the oldest child of her oldest son, and the Chinese are all about sons! Of the 12 cousins in my generation, counting both my mom's & dad's sides, there is only one boy, and he was the second-to-last to be born. If the stats weren't in our favor, I don't think we girls would've become as strong-willed as we are.



Like my father, my mother was also born in southern China, but in a different part (Zhongshan), and to parents who actually married for love. They only ended up having 2 kids, a boy and a girl, as 2 others died in childbirth. When Grandma Sah was pregnant with my mom in the late 1940s, my grandpa went overseas to try to make his fortune, as Chinese men at that time were wont to do. He landed in the Dominican Republic, where he worked odd jobs, mostly in restaurants, and sent some money home to China. He ended up staying there for 18 years, and apparently fathered a half-Dominican daughter. So I have an aunt out there somewhere in the world that I've never met (Auntie, if you're reading this, please contact me!).

Chinese plantation workers in Hawaii
My great-grandfather had also done a stint overseas, working in the watercress fields in Hawaii alongside many other immigrants, Chinese and otherwise. He returned to China with enough money to build a big house for his extended family, including my mom. But eventually, the Communists took over this house and made it a regional office, confining my mom's whole family--her grandparents, mother, older brother, and several aunts and uncles--to live in the kitchen.

She Saihua with her dragon head cane

When my mom was 4, her mother was hit by a bus and killed while riding her bicycle home from a women's association meeting. She represented her village in the association, which fought for women's rights in China. Growing up, my mom and her relatives would always talk about how we were descended from a powerful woman general during the Song Dynasty named She Saihua (佘賽花) a.k.a. She Taijun. According to Wikipedia, "Trusting her loyalty and judgment, Emperor Taizong made her the commander-in-chief and awarded her a Dragon Head Cane, a symbol of the emperor, for absolute control of the male-dominated army."

When my mom was 6, her aunt carried her on a boat to Hong Kong while another aunt swam there (!) to escape Communist China. My mom didn't meet her own father until she was 18, when they both immigrated to Hawaii in 1966.

It was in Hawaii that my parents first met. My dad opted to enroll at the University of Hawaii at Manoa rather than be drafted to fight in Vietnam. To put himself through school, he worked New York hours (5-6 hours ahead of Hawaii) as a teletypist sending buy & sell orders to stock exchange floors, first for Walston & Co., then Dean Witter, then Bishop Trust. My mom also went to UH Manoa, majoring in studio art, while earning her tuition by packing pineapples on an assembly line at the Dole Cannery. My parents met while dancing at their college's ballroom dance club.

I attribute my love of dancing to them, and my passion for social justice for women, immigrants, people of color, the working class, and the otherwise disenfranchised to all of my ancestors.

Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Because the Email Never Stops

It just keeps coming and coming and coming...

At the risk of sounding jerky, I'm jotting down this list of frequently asked questions that I get over email (oh, horrific, relentless, vast oceans of email!). I do it (a) for my own sanity, (b) so my directors, investors, and collaborators don't get pissed at me for replying to your emails instead of working on our films, and (c) to provide you with a timely response. 

1. Will you produce my project?
I'm currently not looking for any new projects to produce due to my full-time commitment with Gamechanger Films. But thank you--I'm flattered that you asked! If you have a woman-directed or co-directed narrative feature project that you'd like Gamechanger to consider financing, check out the FAQ page.

2. Can you recommend a producer for my project?
Please look at the following sources: Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellows, Independent Spirit Producers Award nominees, Film Independent Producer Lab fellows, Rotterdam Lab fellows, producers of recent films you like that are in your budget range, and graduate producing programs at Columbia, NYU, USC, AFI, etc. 
[UPDATE: I've written a detailed post dedicated exclusively to this question.] 

3. Can you recommend a DP/editor/production designer/line producer/1st AD/etc. for my microbudget film?
I don't produce 5 films a year (whoever does is either not human, not actually "producing," or lying!), and even if I did, great crew members graduate to higher budgets quickly. Instead, please look at my IMDb to see whom I've worked with, and if you like their work, ask how I liked working with them. Also, call below-the-line agents. Lastly, watch a lot of movies!

4. I'm looking for work. Do you know of anything?
I might, but I'm not an agent, manager, headhunter, or job board. And if I've never worked with you before, I'm less inclined to recommend you. If I do know of something, I usually post it on my Twitter and Facebook.

5. I'd love to get your feedback on my script/production plan/rough cut. Can I send it?
Unless I've specifically solicited it from you or your rep for Gamechanger to consider, sorry, but no

6. I'd love to chat with you about some things I'm working on.
Really? What? Don't be vague. I like details. And I hate talking on the phone! Why? Time it takes me to read your spiel = 15-30 seconds; time it takes me to hear your spiel = 15-30 minutes + time spent scheduling the call. Do the math!

7. Can we meet for coffee?
If you'd like to have a general, speculative, or advisory meeting, I'm afraid I won't have time to meet. You see, in addition to being a "manager," I'm also a "maker," and the schedules for these two types of people are at odds with each other, so I basically work around the clock. What the hell am I talking about? See here. If you are seeking producing advice, please read this blog, which contains links to interviews I've done and articles I've written about producing. You should also read Ted Hope's blog, Filmmaker Magazine, books about filmmaking, and the trades. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook too--if you do, I thank you!

Thanks for understanding my effort to control the flood of emails. In order for me to be an effective producer and human being, I must protect my time to focus on my own projects, investors, directors, creative cultivation, and life. I hope that you understand. Best of luck with your projects!

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Land Ho!" At Sundance Was Quite The Trip!

Colby D Crossland / Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival
Last month, the latest feature I produced, "Land Ho!" premiered at Sundance. This was my third feature to premiere there (after "Children of Invention" and "California Solo"), and it has been a different but always rewarding experience each time. 

This time, I felt sort of like I was in bizarro world because I was part of one of those storied, infamous "all-night" negotiations that you always hear about but can't actually imagine being real. I put "all-night" in quotes, but it actually was all night--from 6pm Tuesday till 4:30am Wednesday. At the end of that night, or morning really, Sony Pictures Classics had acquired the film. It was a dream come true for all of use since we've always wanted to work with them.

But even more important than the deal was the audience and critical reaction to the film. I can't remember the last time I went to a movie and the audience laughed that much (and also cry!). It made me so proud to have been a part of making this film, along with writer-directors Martha Stephens & Aaron Katz, producers Sara Murphy & Christina Jennings, and our wild and crazy boys Paul Eenhoorn & Earl Lynn Nelson. I was extra proud that this was the first film financed by Gamechanger Films, the women directors film fund that I run.

We cannot wait to share "Land Ho!" with everyone this year! Until then, check out some of these great articles about the film and our Sundance experience. For more, see our Facebook page.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Cold Comes the Night" Premieres Today!

The new film I produced, "Cold Comes the Night," opens in theaters and on VOD this Friday, January 10th!

It's a crime thriller starring Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)--and they are all FANTASTIC in it!

We are an independent film with a limited release, so our opening weekend is extremely critical in getting theaters to extend our run. We'd be so grateful if you came to see it with your friends!

TONIGHT, Fri 1/10, in Los Angeles: Director Tze Chun and co-writers Osgood Perkins & Nick Simon will be doing Q&As after these screenings:
Laemmle NoHo at 7:50
AMC Burbank at 8:15

TOMORROW, Sat 1/11, in New York: Director Tze Chun and I will be doing Q&As after these screenings:
Quad: 5:207:30
AMC: 7:45
Check out the trailer & film stills, and BUY TICKETS! For the full list of ways to see the film, go here.

CLICK TO TWEET the premiere!

Thanks in advance for helping to spread the word, and we hope to see you this weekend!